View: The old ways in the new Nalanda


At COP26 in Glasgow, Narendra Modi appealed for a ‘one-word movement’ — Lifestyle For Environment, or LIFE. He appealed that an environment-conscious lifestyle can revolutionise every sector if we make mindful choices every day leading to the ‘path of self-realisation’. Nalanda University, in its own way, has stepped forward in this direction to create a net-zero campus.

Eight centuries after its destruction, the resurrected Nalanda University – coming into existence after the passage of the Nalanda University Bill in 2010 – today is a sprawling 455 acres, carbon-neutral, sustainable zero-waste campus.

The guiding principle during the building of the campus was to develop it in harmony with the natural environment and climatic conditions creating new paradigms of sustainability. The university integrates smart energy-efficient innovative indigenous strategies into architecture, design, construction and services that include biogas, cavity wall concepts, solar, geo-thermal and passive approaches.

Modern and traditional resources are used to conserve water inside the campus, including the 5,000-odd years-old ahar-pyne method – using ahars (reservoirs) with embankments on three sides that are built at the end of drainage lines such as rivulets or artificial works like channels (pynes). Two methods are used for water management on the campus – one, to conserve and recharge the water collected through surface run; two, to save the available water from being wasted.

A special awareness plan has been prepared to prevent any misuse or overuse. With the help of pynes channels attached to the boundary wall of the campus, the rainwater is transported to the ahars constructed in the campus. The large amount of rainwater that flows from the hills of Rajgir is stockpiled in the water bodies. Decentralised water treatment systems are also being effectively implemented inside the campus to purify 80% of the water to be reused. This water is being conserved in the Kamal Sagar, a cluster of four ponds built in the centre of the campus premises.

Nalanda University has also established an aquifer storage and recovery system for water resource management at seven sites in Nekpur and Meyar villages at Rajgir. Diverse native herbs, plants and trees helpful in temperature reduction, air and water purification creating oxygen corridors for future sustainability, have also been planted. Its unique green campus landscape allows adequate year-round shade and micro-climate improvisation, and the eco-friendly buildings are designed to capture optimum natural light.

For energy optimisation with a focus on demand side management, desiccant evaporative (DEVAP) technology is used for the cooling and heating of the buildings. Further, use of thick cavity walls for enhancing thermal resistance, use of compressed stabilised earth blocks — instead of common burnt clay bricks — and use of smart technologies and automated approaches have enabled Nalanda to become not just self-sufficient but also to decarbonise the environment.

Integrity, imagination and innovation are the key drivers in the renewal that the new Nalanda University brings.

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